Both Paul and John wrote that God was an invisible spirit. Yet, other parts of the Bible say otherwise. So which is right?
According to the Bible, you have any number of people who physically encountered God, starting with Adam and Eve and including Ezekiel, Daniel, Abraham, Isaiah, Joshua, Moses and Jacob (who supposedly wrestled with God) and then, of course, there is Revelation. Isaiah is an interesting case because the renown prophet described God as seated on a throne wearing a long, flowing robe – and absolutely nothing else. If you’re reading the Book of Isaiah, you’re waiting for the prophet to describe his once-in-a-lifetime encounter with the Ancient One and all he has to say about God is that he was seated on a throne wearing a robe. There were so many things about God that people were dying to know… and yet he basically said nothing! How is that possible?
It kind of makes you wonder if Isaiah actually met God. Even if one accepts his story at face value, Isaiah obviously didn’t know what God looked like so how did he know that it was really God? It was an other-worldly apparition, to be sure, but God? Why not an angel, a demon or the devil himself (perhaps in disguise)?
Aside: Perhaps it was even the Gnostics’ evil Ialdabaoth himself.
Yet, Paul and John said that God was spirit and John elaborated by saying that no man had ever met God. That raises questions about the veracity of the stories about people having contact with God. Were theses stories pure fiction, such as one’s minister opening his sermon with “and last night God talked to me”, or might they have been based on real-life events, events where the participants might have believed that they had come in direct contact with the Absolute?
For most people, the answer to this question is irrelevant. As Stuart Chase so aptly put it, “For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” In any event, though, the God of the Bible has been shown to be a two-faced god. On the one hand he is a physical life form who is jealous, vengeful and prone to violence; on the other hand he is an invisible spirit who is described as being all-loving. With two such totally disparate concepts, the Bible could hardly be considered to be the unerring Word of God.
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (emphasis mine)
– Romans 1:21-25
This is the last of my four part series on Genesis – Making Sense Out of Genesis, The Debate, Why Genesis Is Not Believable and lastly Why They Believe.
The origin of religious belief is simple; it’s because they were told to believe.
In Saudi Arabia, people grow up with Islam because they are told to. They are told that Islam is the Word of Allah. Questioning of their faith is not allowed. The same picture develops in other parts of the world. In India, they are primarily Hindus, in China they are Buddhists, in Israel it’s Judaism and in western civilization mostly Christianity, despite having freedom of religion. I say despite freedom of religion because where I grew up Catholics and Protestants would live next door to one another and yet their kids would also be Catholics and Protestants, respectively. So a person’s religion is simply based on the religion of their parents whose religion was based on the very same religion of their parents, and so on. It’s a social phenomenon based on cultural indoctrination. Rarely, does anyone ever question their faith.
If you’ve ever seen a video of life inside a madrassa, you know exactly what I mean. In a madrassa, young children are taught to recite from their holy book by chanting scripture. They don’t even know what the words mean. Actually, it’s not important what the words mean. It’s only important that one follows along with the mindless exercise. The same picture repeats itself at The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. As adults, these very same children who were taught to mindlessly chant from their holy book are still doing the same thing. Talk about brainwashing.
Behind every belief system is a subconscious need to believe, or perhaps more accurately – to belong. That’s how clubs and cults operate. It’s also how the family system works. People are social creatures who need to belong (whether they realize it or not). The price of belonging is to follow the rules. In religion, it’s to be true to your faith – or to be more exact, to its dogma that was formulated by who knows who a couple of thousand years ago.
The beliefs of the various religions have some similarities and some things which are totally different. However, they generally have one thing in common. The origins of their beliefs usually started with some sort of extraterrestrial intervention. That is, Joseph Smith (the Mormon religion) received writings from an angel, Mohammed (Islam) received a revelation from an angel, Zoroaster (Zoroastrianism) received his holy Commandments on the top of a sacred mountain as did Moses (Judaism) and Paul (Christianity) had an unearthly encounter with Jesus. In cults, the usual story is that the leader is supposedly the reincarnation of some holy person, as if there even is such a thing. Of course, there would have been no way for any of them to know for certain who or what they were dealing with. They simply accepted what they were told from some extraterrestrial entity. That is, that they were led to believe that they were being visited by an angel, by God or by Jesus, as the case might be.
So believing is easy. We all do it, all the time. Knowing the truth is altogether another matter. As wise a man as Socrates realized that the truth is ultimately unknowable. With respect to religion, the Pascal Wager sums this up quite nicely as follows, “If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible.” Further, in the field of science, Einstein realized that the universe (creation) was unknowable, even to him. Despite this, religions of all stripes claim that they, above all others, are privy to the Word of God and believe that their holy book is the one and only authentic Book of God. In the final analysis, religion is really a no brainer for most people. Knowingly or unknowingly, they just accept what they’re told and they have faith that it’s right. That’s why it’s called a leap of faith.
” How can you say that you are wise and that you have the LORD’s teachings? The scribes have used their pens to turn these teachings into lies.”
– Jeremiah 8:8
In my last post, I said that there was a debate about Genesis, but in reality there is no debate. Genesis simply is not believable. Let’s break it down.
- According to the chronology given in the Bible, Adam and Eve were created some 5,000 years ago. Science says that man (homo sapiens sapiens) was created at least 100,000 years ago, if not much longer. For that matter, there is no scientific evidence of a global flood (as stated in the Bible) in the last 5,000 years.
- Scholars aren’t exactly sure just who wrote Genesis. If Moses wrote the Pentateuch, which includes Genesis, then he wrote about something (Genesis) that occurred some 2,000 years before he was born. That’s akin to someone trying to write the New Testament today. It would also have been pretty difficult for him to have written the entire Pentateuch because parts of it relate to periods after he had already died! Since no one knows who wrote Genesis, why should anyone believe it? In fact, scholars are not even sure who compiled the Old Testament (or exactly when for that matter). One thing is absolutely true, though. That is, Genesis was not written until long after the events were suppose to have occurred; events that had no eyewitnesses.
- Who was there at the very beginning to hear the words that God supposedly uttered in Genesis 1? Obviously, no one was there. Man hadn’t even been created yet.
- Adam and Eve were seemingly created simultaneously (see Genesis 1:27). So how was it then that Eve was created from Adam’s rib? For that matter, the Bible says that both Adam and Eve were called adam (Genesis 1:27) as it was, in reality, not a name but rather a designation for a human life form. Yet, that distinction is never made clear in Genesis.
- God gave the Tree of Knowledge to man for food (see Genesis 1:29) and then later prohibited him from eating from it (see Genesis 2:16,17). This after he said that all of creation was good. Obviously, then, Creation wasn’t perfect as God had created something which had to be placed off-limits to man. As it turns out, the creation of man wasn’t perfect either as God later decided to destroy his own imperfect creation with the Great Flood.
- To believe in the Genesis story, one has to believe in talking snakes. Further, God created the serpent so God is obviously the source of evil in the world (according to the Bible itself).
- Cain, the first child, was banished from the garden and left and found himself a wife. Further, before Cain left the garden God put a mark on him to protect him from enemies. According to the Bible, there would be no one for Cain to have married nor would he have had any enemies because nobody else existed – there was just Adam, Eve and Cain (with Abel having been killed by Cain).
I could go on but at that this point you have either stopped listening or its patently obvious to you why Genesis doesn’t make any sense. One last point, though. Christianity holds that man is the point of Creation. Long ago, scientific theory stated that the sun rotated around the earth, with man then the center of the universe (creation). Of course, that wasn’t true, was it?
However, the Bible says that man was created to till the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 2:15). His fate, then, was to be a worker, tending to the garden. The Bible further confirms this saying, “Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground…” (Genesis 2:5) – emphasis mine. In the very next sentence in Genesis, God creates man.
Further, the garden was only a small part of Creation -“Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden” (Genesis 2:8). Man hardly had dominion over all the animals and all the plants. All that he was supposed to do was to tend to this one garden.
Real or not, why should the Genesis story matter? Well, the central tenet of Christianity is salvation and the Garden of Eden story (eating of the apple) is the stated basis of the Original Sin concept. Without a need for salvation, there is no reason for a messiah. Bottom line: No original sin, no salvation, no messiah, no Christ…no Christianity.
The writers of Genesis did not believe in the concept of Original Sin. It’s antithetical to the core principles of Judaism. Even more to the point –
- Jesus didn’t believe in it: “And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus responded by saying, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” – John 9:2,3
- Paul didn’t believe in it: “Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.” – Romans 5:14
- The Bible doesn’t support it: “ … and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth….” – Genesis 8:21
“For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? And again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally.”
– Origen of Alexandria (the first theologian of Christianity)
So much arguing with so little information. Different people have different things to say about what one should take away from reading Genesis. The all-pervading question, though, is how would anyone really know what the writer(s) of Genesis intended?
For example, did Moses write the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch)? Scholars are not in agreement as to whether Moses wrote the Pentateuch or not. For that matter, there is no proof that Moses is a real person. Certainly, there are no ancient Egyptian records which refer to Moses by name. If Moses did write the Pentateuch, how come he knew so much about the Creation and Flood stories that happened over 2,000 years before his time but almost nothing for the more than 1,000 years after that until the day of Abraham?
Aside: Unless, of course, the Creation and Flood stories were based on older sources.
Since we don’t know for sure who wrote the Old Testament, how do we know what the writer’s intent/message was. For example, rabbis typically wrote in a Midrashic style of writing that was not intended to be read verbatim. Yet today, religious scholars, non-Jewish scholars at that, think that they know exactly what was meant.
Scholars pretty much agree that the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are based on older sources, however nobody bothers to ask if Genesis might also have been based on older source materials. You would think that someone would ask that question particularly because the Talmud says that some Genesis passages were taken from tradition (in other words older belief systems) or older writings.
Bottom line: Are we to accept some vague, undefined old tradition, unnamed older source or a writing from an unnamed author as the undeniable Word of God? If so, why?
In addition, nobody thinks to ask the following questions:
- Did the writer(s) of Genesis write the truth (or did they have an agenda)?
- Did the author(s) even know the truth?
- Has Genesis been edited; that’s particularly relevant since there is no original version of Genesis.
- Who was there in the beginning when God supposedly said, “Let there be light”? Certainly, not Moses.
Moreover, the god of Genesis walked in the Garden of Eden (Adam even heard him walking) and talked to Adam and Eve who obviously, then, saw him. This, then, is the very same God that Paul and John said was an invisible spirit. The very same God you understand. It was the very same God who in the Old Testament was feared by the Israelites because he was jealous, vengeful and prone to violence but in the New Testament was considered all-loving.
The reason that serious scholarship in this area is so lacking is because people start with their existing belief system and work backwards to scripture. They believe that they already know the truth, so they never bother to look for it. They believe that everything worth knowing has already been covered within their belief system. Therefore, they never think to ask the questions that were posed above because questions are only for people who are still seeking the truth.
It’s almost a truism that the smartest people are those that realize that they will probably never find the truth (e.g. Einstein and Socrates). Even, the Bible says that you have to seek the truth and it will set you free (of false belief systems). However, those that are married to their religious belief system have rarely, if ever, searched for the truth. The result, as Kevin Michel said, is that every belief system you have is a commitment to be stuck with that idea, and with aspects of that level of thinking, for the rest of your life.
So, in my opinion, the Genesis story is really nothing more than man’s feeble attempt to comprehend the Infinite with his finite mind. Not knowing God, man did the next best thing – he invented him. That’s how we wound up with the story about Adam and Eve, the serpent and the Garden of Eden.
“At the core of all well-founded belief, lies belief that is unfounded.”
– Ludwig Wittgenstein
Is God clairvoyant? Is he truly all-knowing? Well, consider this. He didn’t know how his own creation would turn out. Let’s break it down.
According to the Bible, God created all things and saw that they were good (see Genesis 1:10,12,18,21,and 25); there was so much seeing without actually knowing. Why would God need to “see” that his creation was good? Wouldn’t an all-knowing God know in advance what he was creating? That is, God should have known, in advance, that what he was creating would have been good (or not) and he wouldn’t have had to wait to “see” the result of his creation. God also created the serpent (see Genesis 3:1). Didn’t he know that the serpent was evil? Actually, not. What God said was that everything he created was good (Genesis 1:31) – even the serpent then. Unless, of course, God was wrong.
Further, in Genesis 6:5, we learn that God saw that man had become evil. Obviously, he wasn’t able to anticipate this turn of events. Also, it means that God was mistaken when he created man and said that it was good. Mistaken, you understand.
Aside: That’s not exactly what one should expect from an omniscient god.
Segueway to Genesis 2:2,3 – God has to rest. Creating the world made this all-powerful entity tired.
Aside: That’s not exactly what one should expect from an omnipotent god.
In Genesis 3:11 and 4:9, God has to ask questions (of Adam and Cain, respectively) to find out what had transpired.
Aside: That’s not exactly what one should expect from an omnipresent God.
There’s only two conclusions that one can reasonably draw from Genesis. Either God is not omnipresent, omnipotent or omniscient… or the Genesis story is inaccurate and, therefore, cannot be taken as the unerring Word of God. Actually, there is a third possibility which you probably won’t like much either. It’s that the “god” of Genesis is not really the Prime Creator!
Aside: If one were to read the original source material that the Genesis story was based on, it would be obvious which possibility is correct.
It wouldn’t be fair to leave Genesis without a mention as to why Adam and Eve were created in the first place. It’s probably not what you think (or were taught). Genesis 2:15 says that Adam was created to till the garden (of Eden). According to Genesis 2:18, Eve was created to give Adam a helper. There is no mention of procreation until Genesis 4 with a reference to the birth of Cain (the first child). This only after Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden and could no longer serve the function for which they were created – to take care of the Garden of Eden. Perhaps, what’s more confusing is how Eve was created out of Adam’s rib. If Adam were a man, you couldn’t take part of him and make a woman… unless the species of man (at that time) was androgynous. Actually, Aristophanes, in Plato’s Symposium, said exactly that.
Modern-day Judaism is for the most part based on the Babylonian Talmud which was written after the Israelites’ captivity in Babylon in the 6th century BC. The Talmud originated out of Babylon because Babylon had become the major center of Jewish learning and religious thought after the captivity, as religious leaders did not relocate back to Judea. It was during this same period that the Old Testament (Jewish Bible) was edited and compiled (and in some cases written) by the Babylonian rabbis. Of the many texts at their disposal, one text in particular was the oldest creation story ever written, the Enuma Elish which is sometimes referred to as The Seven Tablets of Creation. The Enuma Elish was written on seven tablets with the seventh tablet devoted to honoring God. Thus, the origins of the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week, from the Hebrew word shabbath (that means day of rest).
Afterthought: So, perhaps, Genesis should have said that “on the seventh tablet God rested.”
“Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.” (emphasis mine)
– Genesis 5:2
So just who were the Israelites, anyway? Apparently, no one seems to know. In history books, they are sometimes referred to as Hebrews and in linguistics and ethnology they are usually called Semites. However, there is a lot more to the story – a lot more.
No one has ever really explored where the Israelites actually came from. Genesis 14:13 is the first mention of the Hebrews in the Bible. However, the Bible also says that Abraham and his family came from Ur, in Mesopotamia. That makes him a Sumerian (i.e. came from Sumer). Although there is much debate among scholars, Abraham probably lived around 2500 BC, give or take several hundred years. The Sumerian civilization began about 2,500 years earlier and lasted until approximately 1750 BC.
Samuel Kramer, in his book History Begins at Sumer, lists 39 “firsts” in history which began in Sumer. For example, they built the first cities and established the first monarchies and bureaucracies; they invented mathematics; they were the first to use irrigation, they established the first schools; they had the first written language and they wrote the first Great Flood and Creation stories. Historians have never been able to explain how the Sumerian civilization, which was far more advanced than the vaunted Greek civilization (that arose some one thousand years later), could appear out of nowhere. Further, civilization regressed after they disappeared from the world stage.
So why is there no discussion in the Bible of Abraham’s roots (other than the family tree)? Why was it important for the Old Testament writers to suppress the history of their people? After all, the Levite priests who wrote the Old Testament (when the Israelites were in captivity in Babylon) knew that they were descendants of the Sumerian civilization, which was perhaps the greatest civilization that ever existed up until the 20th century! It would only have been natural to emphasize that history, but instead they chose to ignore it.
The Sumerians wrote the first account of creation called “The Seven Tablets of Creation”. Meanwhile, the Genesis story wouldn’t be written until 600 BC or so. The Levite priests had “The Seven Tablets of Creation” in front of them when they penned Genesis. After all, the Sumerian texts were the legacy of the Israelites. It was their history, a history about their ancestors. The Israelite roots were in Sumer and Abraham was a Sumerian.
As for the answer as to why this history was suppressed… I’ll let you connect the dots… but as Jean Jacques Rousseau once noted, “The falsification of history has done more to mislead humans than any single thing known to mankind.”
An old proverb states that, like three wise monkeys, we should see no evil, hear no evil nor speak any evil. However, the question still remains: Where did evil come from?
Usually, the discussion about evil centers around a divine entity so let’s start with the assumption that there is a God and that he is all-powerful and all-knowing. Biblically speaking, God was said to have created everything. So, by definition, he had to have created even evil. What other explanation for evil could there be, other than he caused it? Of course, some people will no doubt choose to disagree.
Theopedia says that either (1) God created this world from nothing, or (2) he created this world from pre-existing matter and God was simply the organizer of that matter. However, it’s illogical to argue that matter preexisted the universe and had no beginning because that would imply that God is not the Prime Creator. As Thomas Jay Oord, a Christian theologian, has stated, the Prime Creator was responsible for all of Creation, be it inside or outside of this universe.
That leaves us with creation out of nothing which is frequently used by the Church to try and explain why someone who is presumably evil (man) was not created by someone who was presumably all-loving (God). If man was not created by God, or so the argument goes, he must have been created out of nothing. Such twisted logic is necessary to try to explain the faulty theology of Salvation. The problem is that if man was created out of matter which was created by God, then God is responsible for man’s creation and salvation is not required.
Aside: Original Sin is not a concept mentioned in the Old Testament. That really isn’t surprising since the Old Testament is actually the Jewish Bible; that is, it was penned by Jewish holy men who didn’t believe in the concept of Original Sin.
However, the concept of creation out of nothing is possible depending upon one’s definitions. For example, the universe could well have been created by energy whose origins were from another dimension or universe. Energy from outside the universe could be said to have come from nothing as there was nothing in the physical universe to account for its origins! As physicist David Bohm says, the universe comes from a deeper order of existence that is beyond both space and time. In other words, from nowhere (nothing).
Of course, there’s a twist to this story. Creation could be said to have come from nothing if it was created out of pre-existing matter (i.e. existing before our universe was created) … although there’s a catch… but only if our universe was created by an entity other than the Prime Creator. The offshoot is that, in this case, the God of the Bible could not have been the Prime Creator.
So, who could the God of the Bible have been then? Well, let’s start at the very beginning – of Creation that is. At that time, the Prime Creator could have been the impetus for the forces that would later fashion the Multiverse. Billions of years later, an advanced human species could have come to earth and created homo sapiens sapiens (i.e. Adam and Eve), mixing their own DNA with that of life forms which existed on the planet at that time. This line of thinking ties in nicely to the Directed Panspermia theory of Francis Crick who was awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering the molecular structure of DNA. Crick believed that life on Earth was intentionally seeded by an extraterrestrial race (read: the elohim of Genesis). Crick understood what Bill Gates (and others) have said recently: “DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.” Obviously, then, it was created through an advanced form of intelligence. Even Nature apparently exhibits a form of intelligent design. As physicist Jim Gates has disclosed, scientific equations which describe the fundamental nature of the universe and reality contain embedded computer codes.
In that case, the chronology of the Bible might be somewhat believable although Adam and Eve would definitely not have represented the first man and woman. Creationism and evolutionary theory, then, could co-exist (at least to some extent). That is, the Prime Creator would have been responsible for the initial Creation. Evolution would have then have taken its course, albeit with large spikes as has been noted in the evolutionary record, due to the intervention of advanced species (the so-called Missing Link).
There’s just one problem, though. Like Mizaru (the monkey who sees no evil), most people are too afraid to seriously look for the truth. They are forever married to their own existing ideology. Maybe, the three monkeys really weren’t so wise. After all, they turned a blind eye to evil, all the while assuming that they already knew the truth.
“Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good?”
The next large California earthquake has been referred to as the “Really Big One.” However, for many people, the really big one refers to the question about one’s purpose in life. Who am I and why am I here? Without the answers to those questions, life often seems pointless.
On the TV series What We Still Don’t Know, cosmologist and astrophysicist Martin Rees did a program entitled “Are We Real?” As Rees said, life is the most mysterious of all the wonders of creation because atoms have been assembled in such a way so that they can ponder their own existence. It’s important to note, though, that such a process requires intelligent design.
However, the question should not be are we real. Of course, life is real, at least on some level. The question should be “What is Life?” Quantum physicists like Einstein, Planck and Bohm have stated that life is an illusion, that atoms are energy rather than matter. However, even these great scientific minds have been unable to grasp the mystery of life.
In The Republic, Plato argued that the objects we perceive are not the ultimate reality, but more like a shadow of reality. Lincoln Barnett similarly wrote in The Universe and Dr. Einstein, “ Along with philosophers’ reduction of all objective reality to a shadow-world of perceptions, scientists have become aware of the alarming limitations of man’s senses.” So all that we feel, smell, taste and see has been created from the information we receive through our sensory system. All we ever know of the world around us are the images produced in the mind. We never experience the physical world directly; color, sound and smell are not qualities of the physical world as they exist only in the mind. That’s all that our perception of reality is then – the mind’s interpretation of electrical signals.
Why is the human race unable to use its brain power to deduce the answer to this illusive question? Well, for starters science is limited to things that have both a cause and effect in this physical universe. The so-called scientific method is a process of measurement and observation. So with respect to what lies beyond space and time, science can only theorize about such things (like the multiverse or the existence of God).
Many prominent quantum physicists have come to the conclusion that the real mystery revolves around the idea that matter does not create consciousness but rather consciousness creates matter instead. Physicist David Bohm has stated that our reality is the result of the interaction of what he calls the implicate and explicate orders. Michael Talbot, in his book The Holographic Universe, described Bohm’s theory this way, “Our brains mathematically construct objective reality by interpreting frequencies that are ultimately projections from another dimension, a deeper order of existence that is beyond both space and time.” The inference is that the quantum world is real and is creating the physical world as a virtual reality.
So, is Schrödinger’s cat dead or alive? If you don’t know, or care, just take the blue pill and go back to sleep.
From a scientific standpoint, Einstein stated that time and space are not natural (somebody constructed them). In a similar vein, philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that time and space are not inherent qualities of the physical world but rather a reflection of the way the mind operates. Bottom line: the entire universe exists within the mind, not the other way around.
“The universe does not exist ‘out there,’ independent of us. We are inescapably involved in bringing about that which appears to be happening. We are not only observers. We are participators.”
– John Wheeler, physicist
Now that Easter is over, I’ve had some time to reflect on what it all means. When I was growing up in a Christian family, I never understood all the fuss concerning Easter. Now that I am older, I understand the fuss but I don’t buy into it. All I see is the Church’s selling of salvation.
I had always been taught that Original Sin comes from the Genesis story. Well, that’s where things get fuzzy. God punished Adam and Eve but he didn’t put any such curse of Original Sin on them (see Genesis 3:16-19). Then in Genesis 8:21, God had an epiphany, “ …and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth….” So, obviously, man did not inherit sin from Adam in that he only became evil beginning in his youth. Jesus actually talks about how men should be like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven; so, again, no sin until after early childhood.
That alone should end the discussion, but I wanted to know more. Since the Genesis story was part of the Jewish Bible and Judaism does not recognize the concept of Original Sin, I wanted to know how that concept found its way into Christianity. Because Original Sin was strictly a Christian concept, I turned to the New Testament for answers. However, the answers weren’t exactly what I had expected. First of all, the disciples did not teach or write about the concept of Original Sin, or Easter either for that matter. Nevertheless, the subject of sin was a hot topic and the disciples even queried Jesus about it, “And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). Jesus responded by saying, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). So, even Jesus rebuked the idea of Original Sin.
The first actual mention of Original Sin in the Bible is in Romans. The thing is that Paul’s concept of Original Sin does not mean that Adam’s sin was inherited by future generations as can be plainly seen in Romans 5:14, as follows, “Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come” (emphasis mine). Accordingly, noted 19th century evangelist, Charles Finney, denied the doctrine of Original Sin.
When you think about it, the concept of Original Sin is really only necessary if Jesus came to this world to save mankind. If, instead, he had only came to spread a message of hope and love, then the concept of sin wouldn’t be very important at all. So if the concept of Original Sin is incorrect, which it certainly appears to be, then the idea that Jesus came here to save us all is probably also incorrect. The truth is that Christianity needs the concept of salvation in order to make Jesus a universal savior (as opposed to the Jewish messiah that everyone was expecting and was prophesied about in the Bible).
Likewise, the concept of a Second Coming also needs to agree with the biblical account. For example, in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus discusses the End of Days with the disciples, as follows: “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus responded, in part, by saying, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:29-30).
The disciples had asked when the end of the world would occur and Jesus answered by saying, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34). Therefore, as Albert Schweitzer said in his book The Quest of the Historical Jesus, the Second Coming was supposed to occur in the lifetime of the disciples!
In a world of false prophets, one can only wonder who speaks the truth and who does not. Clearly, the Bible and Church doctrine are not in agreement. Doctrines like Original Sin, the Trinity and salvation through Christ can all be called into question.
Early Christian theologian Origen of Alexandria (in On First Principles) said that the resurrection related to the spirit, not the mortal body. He considered the concept of a resurrection to be for those that did not have eyes to see and ears to hear, meaning that the story of the resurrection of a physical body was strictly a surface story for the unenlightened. The real story could only be understood by those that were very enlightened (and had been initiated into the Mysteries).
All religions borrow concepts from other religions; the resurrection concept is no exception. For example, “The pagan belief was that the sun died on the winter solstice (December 22nd) because on that day the sun reached its lowest point in the heavens. The sun was then considered to be “dead and buried” for three days because it stayed at this lowest point on the horizon during that time. When the sun once again made its way higher in the heavens on December 25th, it was said to have been born again (resurrected)” (The Ethical Warrior, Why Are Christians Leaving the Church?). So on the spring equinox, pagans celebrated the resurrection of the sun god whose own “death and rebirth” symbolized the death and rebirth of life associated with the spring equinox. That’s the story of how the world wound up with Easter bunnies, Easter eggs and sunrise services.
The real Jesus told the disciples that he would return soon. The real Jesus was not recognizable by either Mary Magdalene or by various disciples. The real Jesus was named Yeshua, but was never named (or even called) Immanuel. The real Jesus believed in reincarnation and the real Jesus… didn’t die on the cross.
There are a number of people who believe that Jesus survived the crucifixion. A movie, “The Passion of Christ,” was even made based on that premise, which was from the book of the same name by biblical scholar Hugh Schonfeld. One of the more important sources for this idea was none other than early church father Irenaeus. In his famous work “Against Heresies,” Irenaeus wrote that Jesus went to India after the crucifixion and lived to an advanced age. Jesus’ travels to India, long after the crucifixion, is confirmed in the Acts of Thomas, which is attributed to the disciple Thomas.
It was noted historian and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer who was one of the first to point out that the gospels (see Mark 13 and Matthew 24) actually say that Jesus intended on returning (the Second Coming) in the “lifetime of the disciples”. Needless to say, that never happened. Obviously then, as Schweitzer noted, Jesus could not have been divine. As it says in the Bible, if a prophet says that something will occur and it does not, then the prophet does not speak the Word of God (see Deuteronomy 18:22). However, it does not preclude the possibility that Jesus survived the crucifixion.
The Bible says that Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me” (Mark 15:34/ Matthew 27:46). A divine Jesus would have never uttered those words. How foolish it would have been of Jesus to have forsaken himself (if he were God incarnate) and how ridiculous it would have been for Jesus to say those words since he knew that he was supposed to die (even if he was only the Son of God). Obviously, then, God did not forsake him. However, Jesus may have thought that someone was going to get him off the cross before he expired, and that someone had not yet shown up.
Jesus was on the cross for only 6 hours when he was taken down from the cross. It takes 2-4 days, and sometimes even longer, for a person to die on the cross. Jesus may well have been alive, then, just as the other two men being crucified with Jesus were also alive. Even Pontius Pilate, himself, could not believe that Jesus had died so soon. Beyond that, one has to seriously ask the question of why the crucifixion was started at all when it was just a few hours before the Sabbath, at which time this kind of punishment was disallowed under Jewish law.
The interesting thing about the crucifixion is that it took place in the private garden of Joseph of Arimathea, at a distance from any onlookers (Luke 23:49). It was Joseph of Arimathea who requested Jesus’ body from Pilate and it was Joseph of Arimathea who brought 100 pounds (why so much?) of myrrh and aloes, which have medicinal uses, to the tomb wherein the body of Jesus was laid. It was Joseph of Arimathea who was a secret disciple of Jesus (John 19:38). Finally, Joseph of Arimathea would have had to have been a member of Jesus’ immediate family in order to ask for possession of the body! Of course, Joseph of Arimathea, being the rich man that he was, could have easily offered Pilate a bribe not to have Jesus crucified, especially since Pilate didn’t think that Jesus had done anything wrong. The fact that he didn’t offer a bribe, is very telling.
Aside: Historians and theologians alike have said that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, but what if that is not correct? The gospels all say that he was crucified in Jerusalems (per the New Testament written in the original Greek). That’s Jerusalem with an “s” at the end. Remember, the Dead Sea Scrolls identified the disciples as part of a small Jewish religious community that lived in Qumran, which they considered to be the New Jerusalem. So what if the location of the crucifixion site was really Qumran, which would explain why archaeologists have never found it.
Historian Jaroslav Pelikan once commented that Jesus is the dominant figure in the history of Western culture. However, it’s hard to imagine that so little is really known about such an important historical figure. Regardless of what the truth of the matter is, I would argue that the history of Jesus has been intentionally obfuscated. As Jean Jacques Rousseau said, “The falsification of history has done more to mislead humans than any single thing known to mankind.” In that regard, the great library at Alexandria, which contained the wisdom of the ages, was burned down to forever conceal the truth about Jesus.
In the final analysis, there are plenty of arguments pro and con for the divinity of Jesus. It probably doesn’t matter anyway since people already have their minds made up, one way or another. As Stuart Chase so aptly put it, “For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.”
The real Jesus is for the most part missing from the Bible. The real Jesus would not have died for a cause, but he might have faked his death to promote such a cause. The real Jesus would have returned as he promised the disciples…if he could have.
“Those who say that the lord died first and then rose up are in error, for he rose up first and then died.”
– Gospel of Philip